Oct 292014 9 Responses

Five Moments a Pastor Looks for at a Wedding

Whenever I watch a football game, I see if a play fails or succeeds. Is the pass caught? Does the run pick up yards? Does the defense pressure the quarterback? I look for outcomes.

But a coach sees something differently. After watching daily practices, scripting the plays, and spending hours watching film, a coach can see little things before a play ever happens which determines whether or not it will have success.

As a coach is to plays, I am to weddings.

Having performed a good number of weddings, I can see little things which other people overlook. I know the look on the couple’s face whenever I accidentally hit on a sore topic during the wedding sermon. I hear the hesitation during the vows or can feel the tension during the ring exchange.

As someone who cares about couples and wants them to succeed, I can’t help but notice little moments during a wedding ceremony which may predict the couple’s potential for success. I would never say anything to the couple. In no way are these moments scientific, but sadly, they are often good predictors of what will happen.

I’ve already written about what to watch for at a reception—it’s the wedding cake. How a couple feeds one another the wedding cake is the most predictable way I can predict divorce on the wedding day. (See: How I Predict Divorce Based on the Wedding Cake)

But there are five moments which take place during the wedding which get my attention. Since the wedding predicts the marriage, minor moments during the wedding ceremony can reveal major problems within the marriage. I would never say anything to a couple unless asked, but I watch and I remember. As the years pass I see if my perception becomes reality.

Here are the five moments in a wedding ceremony that a pastor watches most closely:

1. The First Look. This may be my favorite moment of a wedding. It’s not unusual for me to whisper, “This is a moment you will never forget” to the groom as I stand the crowd and the bride makes her appearance. While most couples forgo the tradition of not seeing one another before a wedding, this is still a powerful moment for a couple truly in love. I ignore the bride in these moments and focus on the groom. If every concern disappears as his bride comes into the room, I know the couple has a good chance at success. If, however, the groom is more concerned with the crowd than his bride or is completely untouched by the moving moment, I worry about their relationship.

2. Giving Away of the Bride. With young couples, nearly every wedding begins with the same line, “This is the moment of which little girls dream and Daddy’s dread.” The giving of the bride can be the most touching moment of a wedding because it is often one of the first times a woman sees her father cry. Without a word being spoken, much can be interpreted in body language and facial expressions in this moment. Does the father respect his soon-to-be son-in-law? Does the groom understand the difficulty of giving away a daughter? Is there a deep sense of pride in the moment? With backs turned, the crowd cannot see much during the giving of the bride, but the pastor can see it all. (See: Why We Should Still Give Away the Bride)

3. Repeated Vows. It is often overlooked as a cute moment of a wedding when a young couple stumbles over a section of their repeated vows. Sometimes they aren’t listening, sometimes they get distracted, but sometimes they sense what is being asked of them. I often have couples repeat, “(name) in giving you this ring I receive you as my husband/wife. As your husband/wife my promise to God, my promise to your family, and my promise to you is to: love you, care for you, listen to you, learn from, and be one with you. For as long as God allows me to live.” It’s funny how often a groom stumbles at the line “to listen to you.” The stutter, smile, and sometimes have to have the word repeated. It’s not uncommon for a bride to struggle to say, “to learn from you.” Sometimes its just coincidence, but sometimes it is a sense of superiority. Listen to the vows and watch the couple’s faces closely. Much can be learned.

4. The Kiss. Without question, the kiss at a wedding is one of the top five oddest moments of the pastorate. At no other point in life is someone so close to a couple as they show affection toward one another. The next time you kiss your spouse, hold your hand up about head high and a few feet from your face and notice how odd it is to kiss with another object in the vicinity of your lips. Now realize your hand symbolizes your pastor’s face. It’s a strange moment, yet the kiss reveals much. It is easy to sense a difference between passionate love between two people and selfish desire. The kiss should be a joyous embrace without any sense of tension, force, or power. (See: On George Straight, a First Kiss, and Seminary Women)

5. The Signing of the License. In most weddings, the last time I see the couple on their wedding day is during the first few pictures before the reception. It’s during this moment that I sign the marriage license and take the obligatory “pastor and couple” wedding photo which I have never seen hanging in anyone’s house. During this moment the stress of the wedding is over and the couple should be transitioning to the joy of the reception and honeymoon. In good couples, the overwhelming feeling is relief, joy, and gratitude. But for a few couples, the pictures are all business. If there is no sense of happiness in the moments following a wedding, what are the chances that happiness will be there in the years to come.

A person should never use these five events to tell a couple whether or not their marriage will last or not. Many things go into a successful marriage and even if a couple gets all five of these wrong, they can can enjoy success. (See: Always Attend the Wedding)

However, if you are ever bored at a wedding, watch these five moments and see what you notice. Chances are there is far more going on than the average person realizes.

9 Responses to Five Moments a Pastor Looks for at a Wedding
  1. deelmo Reply

    Wow. To quote you – you think it’s ‘funny’ that the groom ‘stumbles’ over “listen to you”, but yet you say the bride may have a sense of ‘superiority’ if she stumbles over ‘learn from you’. I believe your male entitlement attitude is showing very clearly in this post.

    I won’t be reading you any more.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Deelmo, my apologies. I didn’t noticed I used a positive example with one sex and a negative example with the other. I will say this, the most likely time for a laugh during the vows is when the guy stumbles over or hesitates on the “listen to you” line. And the laugh most often comes from the bride. It obviously doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen often. This is what led to that illustration.
      kt

  2. Joan McNaughton Reply

    Well, I laughed when I read that – because reading the vows as a woman, the one that caught my attention was ..”learn from you..” and when Kevin mentions that the man stumbles on ..”listen to you..” – it fits perfectly in my experience of marriage and the differences between man and woman.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      That’s funny Joan. I have had a few brides stumble over that line before.

  3. Cheyenne Reply

    You’ll be glad to know that the picture of me, my husband and my pastor will be hanging on my wall forever. My pastor happens to be a really close family friend who is like a dad to me and I wouldn’t want anyone else to officiate my wedding <3

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